What a Win Over Auburn Would Mean for Georgia

ATHENS – Dean Legge's look at what a win over Auburn would mean for Georgia.

Beating Auburn has never been easy for the Bulldogs – particularly with everything on the line. The Bulldogs and Tigers have both traded road wins with one another over the decades, so a win is something that's not going to be easy to come by.

Georgia's status as a huge double-digit favorite in this one doesn't guarantee anything, either, if history is any guide. The only two times a team in the Georgia-Auburn game has been more than a ten-point favorite they have lost the game outright – and both times happened at the expense of the home team (Georgia in 1999 and the Tigers in 2006).

Still, there is a lot more for the Bulldogs to win than lose Saturday. A loss wouldn't necessarily end any hope of the Bulldogs winning the SEC East, but a South Carolina win over Florida would put the pressure on the Dawgs to win. Here's a look at what a win over Auburn would mean for Georgia on Saturday and beyond.

1. Stability – Mark Richt entered the year on the proverbial "hot seat", and the Bulldogs struggled out of the gates. The 0-2 start was the first of the Richt Era and was the worst start at Georgia since 1996.

Still, the Bulldogs rallied to win seven in a row – including wins over rivals Tennessee and Florida. Now the Bulldogs are in control of the SEC East. A win over the Tigers would almost certainly mean a contract extension for Richt, whose current contract expires in December 31, 2013.

Greg McGarity and company can't allow Richt to hang in the wind; more importantly McGarity can't let recruiting hang in the wind. The class of 2014, which will be juniors next year, is hitting the time at which they will be recruited the hardest.

A win against Auburn settles everything down for some time on a slew of fronts. More than anything it would provide for a contract extension, which would, in turn, answer a lot of questions about the future of Richt and Georgia.

2. A shot at the SEC Title – I know. I know. Georgia can't beat LSU in the SEC title game. I get it.

But someone will still have to show up to play the game – CBS will demand that. And, just to be clear, Mark Richt has a winning record (2-1) against Les Miles – pulling an upset in the 2005 SEC Championship Game. That LSU team isn't like this one, but this Georgia team is starting to look like the team in 2005.

Still, that's putting the cart before the horse. Arkansas isn't out of the SEC race – and neither is Alabama. The Hogs have beaten the Tigers on the final game of the season several times: In 2002, preventing the Tigers from playing Georgia in that season's title game. In 2007, giving LSU their second loss during their national title season. In fact, the Hogs have won three of the last four contests against LSU – twice pulling the upset.

If you are a program in the SEC the first goal each season is to win your division. I, for one, would like to see where Georgia stacks up against the Tigers. My guess is that Georgia would score more than six points against the Tigers…

3. Beating Auburn – The rivalry isn't Georgia-Florida or Auburn-Alabama, but it is an intense rivalry that heated up in a big way after some of the late-game physicality in 2010.

McGarity complained to the SEC (and to the media) about the ending of the game last year. Freshman running back Isaiah Crowell, who made his teammate and future Auburn player Gabe Wright frown when he lifted a baby bulldog during his press conference, said this week that he "never liked Auburn". The Tigers and Bulldogs might not hate one another like they hate the Tide and Gators – but it's a rivalry nonetheless.

"The schools have so much in common," Vince Dooley said earlier this week. "Somebody called it feuding cousins, and I think that's a pretty good way to describe it. It's a great rivalry, but there's a lot of respect."

The recent string of success for the Bulldogs over their foes to the West is rare. Georgia hasn't had the sort of success against Auburn in most fans' lifetimes. Winning five of six games would be a big deal to many who feel that Auburn is, in fact, Georgia's biggest rival.

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